IW Best Plants Profile - 1990

Digital Equipment Corporation's 1990 Best Plants award-winning Colorado Springs site, a center for the design and manufacture of the RA90 family of disk drives and other advanced storage devices, provides a showcase for the benefits of networking computer and information systems.

DEC's internal networking platform, which supports electronic mail as well as computer-to-computer links, was a vital cog in the concurrent product/process development effort that culminated in the successful launch of the RA90 in mid-1988. The network continues to play an important role in coordinating the fabrication and shipment of parts and subassemblies from 40 locations around the globe to two points of final assembly. Process control and quality data are shared across the network to achieve rapid problem solving and continuous improvement.

The DEC network supports a sophisticated computer system known as CAPS for computer-aided process support. CAPS plays a multifaceted role, including database management, inter-application messaging, capture of assembly and test data, controlling the movement of in-process material, and interfacing with robot controllers. CAPS also provides traceability of vendor parts to specific finished products.

CAPS' innovative material-handling system (MHS) uses electronic "pull" signals to coordinate material movement. When a work cell finishes an operation, a MicroVAX controller sends a ready-to-receive signal over the network. The MHS matches ready-to-send messages with ready-to-receive messages, and then issues commands to the workstations to move pallets along the conveyor system. No material moves unless a station has asked for it.

Digital Equipment Corporation
Major products: Disk drives, storage devices
Note: In October 1994 the Colorado Springs disk drive operation was sold to Quantum Corporation, and in 1995 it was relocated to Malaysia. DEC now operates a new and unrelated computer subsystem operation in this location.

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